Romania to Vote for First Female Premier Amid Protests

Romania Government

ALISON MUTLER

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The woman expected to become Romania’s first female prime minister and the country’s third head of government in a year promised Monday to raise wages and reduce bureaucracy ahead of a confirmation vote in parliament.

Viorica Dancila, 54, is expected to win enough votes to lead Romania’s current left-wing government, which the European Union has criticized over legislation that critics say will make it hard to prosecute high-level corruption.

Dancila has voiced support for the proposals, which have prompted public protests. She is a member of the European Parliament and was a relative unknown in domestic politics until this month.

The legislation also would ban the use of audio and video recordings in prosecutions. Other aspects include holding judges personally responsible for erroneous rulings and a process for seeking financial damages from them.

The previous two prime ministers were ousted because they were perceived as not toeing the ruling Social Democrat party line, and in particular not giving their full support to the overhaul of the justice system.

Mihai Tudose resigned as prime minister earlier this month after the party withdrew its support for him. He replaced Sorin Grindeanu, who was forced out of office in a vote of no confidence brought by his own party in June.

Dancila will likely act in the role of an administrator, with government policy decided by powerful Social Democrat chairman Liviu Dragnea, who can’t be prime minister because of a conviction for vote-rigging.

A court froze Dragnea’s assets in November over a charge of embezzling EU funds. He denies wrongdoing.

Dancila was booed by a small group of protesters as she arrived at parliament before the vote.

“The goal of my mandate is for Romania in 2020 to be in the top half of the EU’s strongest economies so that young people no longer leave from Romania, and those that have left want to return,” Dancila told lawmakers.

Dancila vowed to reduce bureaucracy, to raise wages, and build hundreds of kilometers (miles) of new highways and railway lines by 2020.

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